Foreign Policy

A big old identity crisis

Is the Republican Party finally starting to part with Donald Trump?

At first glance, the attempt to convict the former US president for inciting the uprising in the Capitol on January 6th fell short of the required two-thirds majority in the Senate with 10 votes. And it’s still largely Trump’s party: one of the seven Republican senators who voted for conviction, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, has already been criticized by his state’s Republicans.

But judging the impeachment process on Saturday just by the headline that Trump was acquitted misses the big picture. The 57:43 result is, in fact, the most bipartisan vote in US history, making it much harder for Trump or his supporters to call the impeachment process purely partisan or unilateral. And while minority leader Mitch McConnell himself voted for acquittal – believing it was unconstitutional to indict someone who was no longer in office – he later devastated Trump for a “shameful breach of duty,” one in the Excoriation contained in files may encourage future civil proceedings against the former president.

An increasing rejection of Trump and the contrast with the more one-sided impeachment result of last year could make a difference in the eyes of the world. Even after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, a committed internationalist, on January 20, many American allies fear a return of so-called Trumpism – the virulent unilateralism, jingoism and neo-isolationism that marked Trump’s four-year term and defined the party.

Now an internecine battle for the future of the party could arise, which could affect how Republicans see the world and how they deal with foreign policy.

On one side are wild Trump loyalists like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Josh Hawley, both of whom are seen as potential presidential candidates in 2024. On the flip side are McConnell, still one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, and Wyoming Rep Liz Cheney, another potential presidential candidate who stunned the Conservatives when she voted for Trump’s impeachment and still managed to keep a party leadership position. Somewhere in the middle, but in the direction of a break with Trump, the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is also set to vie for the nomination for 2024, is leaning.

Haley, a former loyalist who stood up for Trump, said in a recent interview with Politico that she was “disgusted” by his behavior in connection with the January 6 riots, particularly his victimization of Mike Pence, after the then vice-president agreed to confirm Biden’s election victory.

“I think he will find himself further and further isolated,” said Haley. “I think his business is suffering right now. I think he has lost whatever political viability he would have. “

McConnell’s words on Saturday could have the most lasting impact. The Senate minority leader may have seen it both ways – voting for acquittal while criticizing Trump – but his testimony in the Senate suggests that the touchstone of Republicans’ success is no longer just the one closest to Trump’s line comes. “He hasn’t gotten away with anything – not yet,” McConnell said, making it clear that the former president is still facing criminal and civil prosecution for his acts. Trump has reportedly raised concerns about being charged and is not under criminal investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the elections Mention criminal investigations by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the New York Attorney General into his business.

McConnell’s distancing from Trump, said Washington pollster Stanley Greenberg, could lead to a “civil war” within the Republican Party, although McConnell will not necessarily win.

“I think the importance of McConnell’s speech is being grossly underestimated – especially given that he’s struggling to field strong candidates in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Greenberg said in an email. “It was a signal to the Justice Department and states that they should be free to involve Donald Trump in costly civil and criminal prosecutions.”

McConnell, a accomplished political veteran who knows how to count votes like everyone else in Washington, said Politico Saturday night that he is ready to propose candidates for the Republican primary that Trump could potentially speak out against. “The only thing that interests me is the choice,” he said.

All the more reason to conclude that McConnell is beginning to see Trump as politically toxic. “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said on the Saturday of the deadly January 6th uprising. “The people who stormed this building thought they were going to act [his] wishes. … The leader of the free world cannot thunder for weeks that shadow forces are stealing our land and then faking a surprise when people believe him and do reckless things. “

Elaine Kamarck, a Democratic strategist at the Brookings Institution, suggested McConnell made a conscious choice to protect the party and risk his own political future by speaking so strongly against Trump. “By not bringing the conviction charge, he was protecting his GOP colleagues,” she said. “So he decided to downgrade Trump for the good of the party.”

The question of whether McConnell and other leaders can successfully outpace Trump will be asked first in the 2022 midterm elections. Regardless of their dislike of Trump, many Republicans continue to support his politics and his dealings with the world. “II don’t realize that a speech will unfortunately wrench the leadership of the party from Trump, ”Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said in an email.

Pompeo, perhaps Trump’s most loyal senior cabinet official, could be the leading candidate to pick up his coat. Since leaving office, Pompeo has claimed that Trump made the United States “so much safer today than it was four years ago” and “restored America’s credibility”. Last week, after Biden’s two-hour conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Pompeo urged him to confront China “head-on” as the Trump administration did.

Hawley is at least as Hawkish on foreign policy, but he has also fallen from his high place in the party, having been widely condemned by Republicans for defending Trump’s unfounded “Stop the Steal” movement and the Capitol march . Hayley, based on her performance at the United Nations, could take a more moderate approach: while defending Trump’s most divisive policies, such as moving the Israeli capital to Jerusalem, behind the scenes she was seen as an effective, sensible diplomat by her UN peers. for example Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

If Trump is marginalized, then other Republican moderates who voted for the condemnation – Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat. Toomey from Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney from Utah may have more leeway within the party.

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